Progressive Revival

At the core of the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States was the clear, real, and inspiring inaugural address given by President Barack Hussein Obama. 


I was among the millions who were on the mall.  My particular neighborhood was located at the Washington Monument where thousands of us could see both the United States Capital and the White House in the distance.  Around me were people of all colors, cultures and ages, some even from other countries who had come to Washington for this moment in US history.  We took pictures for one another and a small community began forming in the cold clear morning. 


We were so excited for Barack Obama that we cheered images of his motorcade driving towards the capital as the moment we thought would never come ticked closer. We looked at the huge screen which I dubbed “The Obamatran” which showed images of one leader after another walking down the halls and out onto the podium. We evaluated them all. There were occasional boos, but mostly the mood was generous, exuberant and anticipatory as we waited for Barack Obama to finally be sworn in.  


As the actual event started the crowd grew silent as we listened to Senator Feinstein introduce Rick Warren whose hypocrisy when he prayed that all people are created equal evoked open laughter, but we were too excited to let a blip like that diminish our day.  We heard music from the greats, and the swearing in of our Vice President, Joseph Biden, Jr. and then it was time for the main event.  Even writing this I am smiling as I recall the joy that we collectively felt as we witnessed our President sworn in.  


From the moment President Obama (I love writing that) spoke it all become absolutely, and miraculously real – we had a new president. One with so much potential that he may be the greatest ever.   His words were not ecstatic – just the opposite.  President Obama took the occasion of this address to bring us back to earth and to focus us on the very real challenges that we face. Author and Beliefnet blogger Diana Butler Bass has recently been talking about what gives people hope.  One of the key factors is a realistic understanding of history which informs expectations for the future. President Obama reached back into history and evoked the struggles that have faced our country in the past to give us a reminder of the strength and courage it will take  to meet the struggles of our time.


He gave us a few wonderful lines which reminded us of who we had voted for and why it mattered who occupies the White House.  Phrases that will guide policy like: 


“a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity” (economic justice)


“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” (torture)


“They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.” (war)


“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass;” (pluralism)


And many more…


People around me were crying, vigorously nodding, my sister turned to me and said: “I agree with every single word.” and at the end, we cheered – not in the way when your team wins, but when you believe in your heart that everyone has won.  Today we are celebrating, but we have been given our marching orders – tomorrow we get to work. 


As Rev. Lowery closed us: Amen, Amen, and Amen!

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